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Mysteries of the Wall: Impressions of the Attack on Titan Season 2 Premiere

Humanity’s struggle for survival has always been a popular premise for movies and TV shows. From Independence Day to The Walking Dead, each of these apocalyptic storylines focuses on the unwavering resilience of the human race. No matter how bleak the circumstances, the people that don’t lose hope are the ones that live on. Attack on Titan revolves around this principle, and is arguably one of the best of its kind. The first season was breathtakingly dramatic (spoilers to follow; read no further without having seen it), and by far my biggest complaint is that we had to wait so long for the second, but that wait is finally over. If you haven’t already watched the first 25 episodes, you’re missing out on one of the most emotionally-involving stories ever written. Add that to the unbelievably large-scale action scenes, and you’ve got a Netflix binge that will make a 48-hour weekend fly by in mere moments. The first episode of Season 2 aired this past Saturday, and it did its job well. Here’s what I anticipate in the coming weeks based on the events of the season premiere:

On the Ropes

Unfortunately, mankind is in no better shape than it was in Season 1. The walls are still their only protection, and the capture of Annie hasn’t yielded any useful information. Although everyone is now aware of human-controlled titans, not much else has been discovered. Attack on Titan has only celebrated small victories so far, ones surrounded by numerous tragedies that seem to reveal the futility of fighting in the first place. At one point, humanity managed to recapture lost territory from the titans, but even that triumph was darkened by how many lives were paid to earn it. The Season 2 premiere captures the same tone by using a number of familiar elements: an impossible dilemma, a risky measure to resolve it, and the introduction of a never-before-seen threat. The characters’ desperation is paramount to the story, while the viewers are immediately reminded of two things, the first being the absolute hopelessness of the situation. The titans are a grave threat of which mankind knows very little, and even the miniscule knowledge they do have is repeatedly contradicted by the Abnormals (titans that don’t follow the same behavioral pattern as the typical variety). Predictability seems to be the titans’ only weakness, but it seems even that advantage is quickly fading away. The second is the philosophy that has kept humanity alive even through such perilous times – only when we stop fighting do we lose. No matter how impossible the situation, Attack on Titan shines in its display of a desperate society’s refusal to submit.

Dangers Unseen

One of the biggest reasons why the human race has been backed into a corner is how often it’s faced with new threats. Sure, the titans are terrifying, but they only have animalistic intelligence, and people have developed the proper strategies for eliminating them. Then there are the Abnormals that think, act, and move irregularly, forcing soldiers to adapt and fight them in a different manner. Finally, there are the human-controlled titans, the biggest mystery of them all. No one knows their motivations, whose side they’re on, or the extent of their abilities. Season 1 continually broke down appreciable – yet somehow disheartening – victories of humankind by introducing dangers unseen. It seems this pattern has extended to Season 2 as well. I won’t spoil what this new threat is (partially because the new episode left a lot of questions unanswered), but the implications set the stage for an impressive arc of the already well-developed story. There’s also an eerie revelation about the walls, one that injects yet another mystery into the convoluted events of the show. The premiere highlighted it in a way that I can only assume means it will be a primary focus of this season, and I can hardly wait until next Saturday to learn more.

Expectations for Eren

Season 2 began with a lot of world-building, something that Attack on Titan continues to do effectively. Eren has taken a backseat in the new episode, with only a short scene, but we can expect to see more development as the show continues. He plays an unsurprisingly prominent role as the main protagonist, but so much is still unknown between the extent of his powers and why he fights on the opposite side of the other human titans. There’s a lot to cover in the upcoming episodes, and this one is everything I expected, reconnecting us with familiar characters, while introducing yet another despairing adventure against the titan menace. Unfortunately, the danger has evolved in more ways than one. So, too, must humanity’s methods to survive.

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